The art you have chosen for your own home encapsulates the merging
of art and design. Can you name some favorite pieces?
We own two pieces by a Japanese couple, Ichiko and Minoru Ohira
(below right). Both are sublimely elegant in their form despite the use
of humble materials. Ichiko has taken tea-stained steno paper and
stacked the pieces sculpturally. The entire form is bound in a frame
of parchment. Minoru creates a sculptural form and clads it with thin
wood skins. Seen in tandem they have a yin yang counterpoint—they
belong together. I love buying a piece then becoming part of the
artistic process by deciding where the piece lives.
While in Cortona, Italy, last year we discovered an artist, Antonio
Massarutto. Back home we had just finished a renovation on our family
room and we had all kinds of ideas for a very large wall. When I saw
Antonio’s work I immediately had a vision for it on that wall. It was a
joy to work with him trying to figure out which pieces would work the
best together. His work is also very sculptural. He uses chicken wire and
sculpts his forms out of, again, an unexpected and entirely humble
material. The forms have volume and yet because the chicken wire is
open, the forms have an evanescent quality.
Among the pieces in your home we most admire are the John Dickinson
tables. Do you consider iconic pieces like this art?
In the purest sense, art is created free of any commercial restraints. At the
time, these tables were produced commercially. I do think Dickinson’s
use of primitive forms in a modern world grew into an iconoclastic vision
that greatly influenced designers. I can certainly compare Gauguin’s
shocking primitivism and its effect on the art world and Dickinson’s
direction. Art has such ambiguity, but from my point of view I do think of
the tables as art due to their lasting legacy.
Which other artists do you admire and why?
Ai Weiwei, J.M. W. Turner, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, de
Kooning, Bacon. All of these artists took tremendous risks and pushed
the envelope of the current zeitgeist of their time.
Berman Rosetti pieces are defined by the human hand. Why is this artistry
integral to you and your design partner, Gennaro?
Over the course of three decades and countless hours of experimenta-
tion we have carved (no pun intended) a niche for ourselves that we
feel very comfortable with. What is most gratifying is to see the pride our
workers take in this vision. Gennaro and I have become more mindful
that each piece must have an essential integrity that can pass our
litmus test before it goes into production. There comes a time when you
realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in
reality have any possibility of becoming real.
Has art directly or indirectly influenced your design work and if so, how?
I started out in fine arts and segued into design. My orientation to
solving problems were initially formed in front of a canvas. It was only
after abandoning painting that I pursued design so I think my frame of
reference was established then and helped enhance my approach to
design after I learned the essentials of that trade.
Does art need design, or vice versa?
“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” —Ralph Waldo
Emerson. Between reality and the point where the mind strikes reality,
there is a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being,
where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life
does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.
Nick Berman of Berman Rosetti